Leadership development divide for school leaders

The announcements this week by the Director-General to run expensive, resource-rich programs for Independent Public Schools (IPS) school leaders while excluding 351 non-IPS leaders has finally and officially confirmed that we now have a two-tiered system of public education.

Our public education system has always stood for equity for children – meaning quality public provision for all, no matter where you live or what your circumstances are. For that to happen, we need to ensure that all of our leaders and teachers have the opportunity to develop the leadership and instructional skills necessary to meet this basic moral purpose.

The most recent initiative of the department, using $8 million of federal funding, to provide leadership development programs for IPS principals only undermines this sense of moral purpose and will contribute to the fragmentation of our public system. Excluding a significant number of principals – many of whom are working with some of our more disadvantaged children and often in undesirable locations – sends a shocking message to the system.

Leaders in a number of challenging schools are excluded from these development opportunities, simply because they are not IPS sites. If the system is genuine about building capacity in principals and an empowered mindset amongst principals and teachers then surely this is an aim for all: we need to develop the strengths of every school not just a select number. The department’s strategy will ensure exactly the opposite: it demeans the thousands of talented and hardworking people working in those 351 schools and will reinforce in people’s minds a view that these people are somehow lesser. This in turn will affect their promotional opportunities and thus reinforce the “second-tier” perception.

The delegations of power that have accompanied the advent of the Student Centred Funding Model and the one line budget mean that the differences between IPS and non-IPS sites are now minimal. There is no justifiable reason why every principal in the system should not be eligible to access the professional learning he or she needs. To be excluded simply because you are not formally an IPS site attacks the principles of fairness and equity in our public system. The logical extension of this kind of thinking will be that the educational outcomes of children in non-IPS sites will suffer in the long term, because if the purpose of this investment is ultimately to improve student outcomes, then the consequence of denying this kind of development program to a significant number of principals is obvious.

There has been considerable angst arising from this differentiated professional learning model that only supports IPS principals and we would appreciate your views. Please complete the very simple questionnaire below.

You may like to share the questionnaire with your school leader colleagues in your network.